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Treasury to leave doctors’ pay to governors

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich. (Photo: Jenipher Wachie/Standard)

The Government is ready to pay doctors and nurses their increased salaries from January to June, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has revealed.

This deal, however, will lapse at the end of this financial year and governors will be required to take up the role in the next financial year.

The CS, who appeared before the Senate Finance Committee alongside governors and county Speakers under the umbrella County of Governors and County Assembly Forum (CAF) respectively, reiterated that health is a fully devolved function and the responsibility of the counties.

Mr Rotich, who appeared before the legislators to explain why the proposed allocation to counties in the next budget has been slashed by Sh8 billion, said the Government had factored in a supplementary budget to pay nurses from January to June, as they wait for the doctors’ union to strike a deal.

Though the prolonged doctors strike was not part of the Division of Revenue (DoR) – share of revenue raised for the two levels of Government – it generated interest among the senators and governors.

“The Government will only pay for any salary increment given to doctors and nurses from January to June, this year.

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“After June, the county governments should take over the payment of salaries, given that health is a devolved function,” Rotich said.

Council chairman Governor Peter Munya (Meru), together with Council Committee of Health chairman Governor Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and his Finance counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya cautioned against using the funds disbursed to counties in this financial year to effect the salaries’ increment.

They argued that doing so would lead to a crisis in the counties.

LEGALITY OF CBA

At the same time, the ongoing negotiations between striking doctors and the Government could take a new turn after the man who signed the controversial Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) told legislators he signed the document when he was no longer in office.

Members of a joint House committee questioned the legality of the CBA after former Permanent Secretary Mark Bor admitted that he appended his signature to the CBA after a new Health PS had already been appointed in the aftermath of the 2013 General Election.

The former PS said he put pen to paper on the understanding that it would form a basis for future negotiations.

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However, he could not explain why the then incoming PS, Fred Sigor, did not sign the document that has now strained the relationship between the Government and the country’s doctors.

“There were issues that we had agreed on and there were those that we didn’t. As we went on with the negotiations, elections came and went. We now had a new government. We also had new people at the ministry. I had to sign because issues arose on who should own the issues that we had agreed upon. It was not the final document,” Mr Bor told the National Assembly Health committee sitting jointly with the Labour and Social Welfare committee.

At the time he signed the document, negotiations had gone on for more than two years.

Doctors are demanding the implementation of the agreement and officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) told the joint committee that they will not negotiate “anything outside the CBA”.

The officials led by Secretary General Dr Ouma Oluga and chairman Dr Samuel Oroko insisted the document was valid and reiterated that the Government had demonstrated bad faith in failing to register the document after it was signed.

“After the document was signed, we forwarded it to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) for input. The ministry took over three months to present the same document to SRC. In our opinion, good faith has been lacking on the part of the Government. Ending this stalemate means that this committee must come out strongly to hold the Government accountable,” Dr Oluga told the joint committee.

Mr Bor signed the document in the middle of threats of industrial action by doctors who were demanding better salaries and improved working conditions.

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The former PS could not furnish the committee with written authority asking him to sign the document on behalf of the ministry.

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